News Picks

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Housing and Development Articles from Great Lakes and New England

Source: The Enquirer, Nov 25, 2007
Community members in Ohio are fighting against real estate prospectors by buying up property before investors can move in to "flip" them for a quick profit.

The Suburbs Keep On Growing
Source: Chicago Tribune, November 29 2007

Need A Mortgage? Go Green
Source: Boston Globe, November 16 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Group says ‘no to coal’ for new NMU power plant

Journal Staff Writer

POSTED: November 28, 2007

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University students and faculty demanded “no new coal” at a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality hearing Tuesday on NMU’s permit proposal for a power plant that could burn wood, coal and other fuels.
“My professional opinion is that even the potential of burning coal is a step in the wrong direction,” said Ron Sundell, NMU geography professor and director of the environmental science program. “We can do a number of things with alternative energy. It’s a new energy age. No new coal.”

Monday, November 26, 2007

Maryland Task Force on Minority Participation in the Environmental Community Releases Final Report

The Task Force was charged with evaluating minority participation in the environmental community and make recommendations for improved participation.

The report addresses four main areas of concerns centered on: 1) the lack of minorities in key policy positions throughout the state government; 2) the lack of attention and funding support that traditional environmental organizations directed at minority issues and concerns; 3) the lack of minority participation in the efforts to protect and restore the Chesapeake and Coastal Bay watersheds, and 4) the lack of public education programs directly connecting minority health issues to the disparate environmental conditions that prevail in some communities. Read the full report here.


Vince Leggett
Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Sunday, November 25, 2007

AAEA Says More American Environmentalists Should Support Nuclear Power

My friends over at the African American Environmentalist Association have some different views on energy policy (particularly nuclear and coal) than most environmentalists I come into contact with. Although I may not agree with everything they support, they have my utmost respect for their professionalism and courage to swim against the current when they believe necessary. Check out their post and consider what they have to say.

AAEA is the only American environmental organization actively supporting nuclear
power...AAEA is the David fighting the anti-nuclear movement Goliath to allow
this technology to provide the electricity we need while mitigating global
warming...The pro-nuclear movement needs more American environmentalists to
ACTIVELY support nuclear power.

For more click here:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Taking from land preservation for bay program

From Tom Pelton
Baltimore Sun
Bay and Environment Blog
November 13, 2007

progress to take from one environmental program to give to another?
In this case, does it make sense to take millions of dollars that would be used to preserve forests and fields, and instead hand the cash to farmers and stream reconstruction companies for runoff control projects?

That's what the Maryland Senate, led by President Thomas "Mike" Miller, is proposing to do, and Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration isn't opposed to the concept. But the Maryland House of Delegates isn't yet on board. And some preservationists think it's a bad idea -- a modern form of robbing Peter to pay Paul -- that would undermine a successful and popular environmental program. Moreover, the critics say, preserving forests and open spaces is the best way to filter runoff and stop pollution into the bay. So cutting this effort for the sake of an unproven concept raises questions.

The state Senate recently cast preliminary votes in favor of a bill that would take about $20 million a year that would have gone to the more than 30 year old Program Open Space, which pays to preserve land and build playgrounds. The money would go instead to Senate President Miller's proposed new "Chesapeake Bay 2010 Fund." (Until last week, it was called the "Green Fund," but Miller said that wasn't going to pass, and he nixed the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's idea of imposing $20 fees on homeowners statewide). Under Miller's new version of the bay fund, that $20 million would be combined with another $30 million from motor vehicle taxes. The grand total of $50 million a year would go to projects meant to combat runoff pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. Farmers would get money to refrain from using fertilizer while planting cover crops in the fall and winter, as well as money to plant buffer strips of trees to protect streams. Stream reconstruction companies would also be paid to build stormwater control dams and ponds in urban waterways.

The proposal is evolving, with House leaders suggesting that the money all come from vehicle taxes.

Dru-Schmidt Perkins, executive director of a preservation group called 1000 Friends of Maryland, said that taking money from Program Open Space would hurt efforts to keep pollution from flowing into the bay. If land is not preserved through this program, it often is gobbled up by developers, which means more pollution into the bay, she said.

"This program prevents land from being converted into new development. So it makes no sense to raid this program," said Perkins. "It's completely unacceptable. We know how urgently funds are needed to preserve open spaces. We are millions and millions short in that fund...It does not help Maryland to shortcut one program that helps the environment to help another. It does not work."

She noted that Gov. O'Malley, during his election campaigns last year, repeatedly promised to "fully fund" Program Open Space, and not raid the preservation funds, as governors have for years.

"Local governments urgently need these funds to run recreation programs and have ball fields for their kids," said Perkins.

Rick Abbruzzese, spokesman for Gov. O'Malley, said the governor will work with whatever compromise the House and Senate leaders come up with. But Abbruzesse said the administration doesn't disagree with the concept of taking from Program Open Space to help pay for bay restoration.

"It's a valid use of those dollars," Abbruzzese said. "If you use funds from Program Open Space that restore the Chesapeake Bay, I would argue that you are fulfilling the goal of Program Open Space."

And he added that the senate is also proposing the closing of a loophole on transfer taxes for corporate properties. That could bring $14 million or more a year into Program Open Space, reducing the size of the cut. Local governments could also get some more money through the closing of this loophole, and they could spend this money on parks if they want, he said.

The specifics may be hammered out in the next few days in Annapolis.

Saginaw Bay watershed top toxic spot in nation

Friday, November 23, 2007
A top government scientist says a toxic ''hot spot'' found in the Saginaw River near Wickes Park in Saginaw could represent the highest level of dioxin contamination ever recorded in the nation's river and lake systems.

As Midland's Dow Chemical Co. prepares to clean up the site next week,officials continue to debate the level of danger it represents. ''We don't believe there's any imminent or significant human health or environmental threat,'' Dow said.

However, officials at the EPA and state Department of Environmental Quality say the public shouldn't downplay the danger because of the intensity of contamination found in Wickes Park. ''This is beyond the debate of whether there's an immediate health risk,'' said Robert McCann, DEQ spokesman. ''Not when you're looking at levels that high.''

Need Contributors and Guest Posters for BICEP Bulletin

I believe that all members of communities should be involved, informed and have the opportunity to participate in issues important to them. With more african americans and other minorities gaining access to the world wide web, It's critical for messages about our community's environmental and development policies reach the people they most effect.

In hopes of increasing breadth and depth in topic areas, I'm looking for like minded potential volunteers to contribute commentary and opinion for the blog and perhaps help with maintaining the website with links and news. If you have knowledge or expertise in:

  • regionalism
  • browfield redevelopment
  • air and water quality
  • environmental justice
  • community participation in the planning process

I definitely want to hear from you. I'd like to try to keep a geographic focus on the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and perhaps New England. No big serious time commitment. Professionals and students alike are welcome!

Thanks and Happy Holidays,

George Jackson
Chief Contributor and Editor
Innovation in Community & Environmental Planning

Friday, November 23, 2007

New Website for Innovation in Planning

I've designed a new homepage. Innovation in Community & Environmental Planning is a portal for various environment and community planning information. It includes links and resources with RSS feeds from different sources and I will be adding more features over time.

The BICEP Bulletin will still be a mainstay for up to date commentary and opinion in environment and community planning planning issues. The only differences that you'll notice is that the BICEP will have more original content, be simplified, and focused on issues relating to the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and New England regions. The homepage will be more of a general resource.

I want to hear from you. I welcome and request any feedback from readers and visitors. Thanks for visiting and Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 16, 2007

European Nations adopt plan to clean up Baltic Sea

Ministers from eight countries yesterday adopted an action plan to restore the Baltic Sea to ecological health by 2021.

"After 18 months of drafting and negotiating, the coastal countries have reached a broad consensus on concrete ... measures that are needed to achieve our common goal of a healthy marine environment," said Mieczyslaw Ostojski, chairman of the Helsinki Commission.

The commission consists of the Europoean Union and the nine Baltic sea countries -- Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden.

Only Denmark has not signed off on the plan, although it is expected to do so after the formation of a new cabinet.

The main threats to the health of the heavily polluted sea are agricultural runoff and untreated sewage, which cause algae blooms, oxygen depletion, murky water and lifeless sea bottoms, according to the commission.

Plans to clean it up include more effective treatment of municipal waste waters, use of phosphorus-free detergents and best practices in agriculture. The commission hopes to reduce the annual level of phosphorus injections into the Baltic Sea from 36,000 metric tons to 21,000 metric tons and lower nitrogen from 737,000 metric tons to 600,000 metric tons.

Environmental groups have criticized the plan as a statement of intention rather than a binding document.


Press Release: EPA 2007 enforcement in Michigan benefits health and the environment

William Omohundro, 312-353-8254,
Karen Thompson, 312-353-8547,

No. 07-OPA223

(Chicago, Ill. - Nov. 15, 2007) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 enforcement actions in Michigan in 2007 will reduce pollution by more than 45.3 million pounds and result in regulated entities spending more than $200 million on pollution controls to correct past environmental violations and help prevent future ones.

In the past fiscal year, EPA resolved 55 actions against regulated entities in Michigan and assessed a total of $1,723,893 in civil penalties for various air, water hazardous waste, pesticide and community right-to-know violations. As part of the settlement agreements, Michigan companies agreed to spend $3,159,211 on supplemental projects to benefit the environment.

"EPA regional enforcement actions in the last year will result in real health and environmental benefits," said Regional Administrator Mary A. Gade. "EPA believes in firm and fair enforcement and working with our partners at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to ensure cleaner air, water and land for the people of Michigan."

Among the most notable environmental actions in Michigan were:

* Dow Chemical Co. agreed to three EPA orders issued under the Superfund Act for sediment cleanup on the Tittabawassee River. Under the first order, Dow will clean up approximately 14,000 cubic yards of dioxin-contaminated bottom deposits and sediments in an area of the Tittabawassee River within Dow's Midland plant property. Under the second order, Dow agreed to remove a dioxin-contaminated naturally occurring levee, as well as cap one upland area and fence off another wetland area located in overbank areas on the northwest side of the Tittabawasee River 3.6 miles downstream of the confluence of the Chippewa and Tittabawassee rivers. Under the third order, Dow will remove dioxin-contaminated sediments in three locations 6.1 miles downstream of the confluence of the Chippewa and Tittabawassee rivers.

* Two companies responsible for the cleanup at the Allied Paper/Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund site will excavate and dredge about 150,000 cubic yards of sediment, river bank and floodplain soil containing about 4,500 pounds of PCBs from the most upstream source of contamination to the Kalamazoo River. The $30 million removal will occur over a two-year period. Much of the Plainwell Dam will be dismantled, and the river will be re-routed to its original pre-dam channel. For the first time since 1902, fish, kayaks and canoes will be able to navigate freely through this area of the river.

* Cemex has agreed to pay $1,359,422 in a Clean Air Act case involving release of particulate matter from a Charlevoix cement plant that it formerly owned. St. Mary's and St. Barbara's, the current operators, committed to installing a baghouse particulate control system costing about $11 million and to investing at least $6.2 million in a supplemental project consisting of a new indirect firing system for the plant's kiln, which is expected to cut emissions of particulates, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

EPA Region 5 coordinates with state environmental agencies in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin to enforce environmental laws. State agencies also have authority to pursue their own enforcement actions.

Nationwide, EPA enforcement resulted in a record $10.6 billion in pollution controls and environmental projects.

For more information about the Region's enforcement program, go to>

Growth in Chesapeake Bay Watershed Outpacing Restoration

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General (IG) released on Sept. 10 an evaluation report stating that development growth in the Bay watershed is outpacing Bay restoration efforts. The report was written in response to Congressional requests to evaluate how well the EPA is assisting its Chesapeake Bay partners in restoring the estuary.

The Bay watershed's population is over 16.5 million and growing by more than 170,000 residents annually. The rapid rate of population growth and related residential and commercial development means that this is the only pollution sector in the Bay watershed that is still growing.

In the Bay Program's 2006 Bay Health and Restoration Assessment, it was estimated that increases in pollution due to development have surpassed the gains achieved to date from improved landscape design and stormwater management practices. This estimation from Bay Program scientists has now been corroborated by the IG report.

Source: Chesapeake Bay Program

Party Officials, Legislators Call on Candidates to Commit to Restoring Great Lakes

Press Release from Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition

For Immediate Release:November 16, 2007

Michigan Party Officials, Legislators Call On Presidential Candidates to Commit to Restoring Great Lakes

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (November 16)-Republican and Democratic Party officials in key counties in Michigan are calling on the 2008presidential candidates to support Great Lakes restoration funding.

Their call comes on the same day that State Sen. Patty Birkholz(R-Saugatuck Township), chair of the Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee, and State Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), chair of the Great Lakes and Environment Committee, are sending a bi-partisan letter to presidential candidates urging them to embrace Great Lakes restoration.

“The time to act for the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes is now, as we face an ever-increasing pressure from invasive species, pollution, and coastal habitat loss,” said Rep. Warren.“Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers recognize that the protection of 20 percent of the world’s available freshwater is imperative and that is why we are calling on Presidential candidates from both parties to commit to fully fund Great Lakes Restoration.”

“Michigan is already doing our part by working to implement the Compact. It is time for the Presidential candidates to commit to protecting and restoring the health of the Great Lakes,” said Sen.Birkholz. “Every day we wait, the problems get worse and the solutions get more costly.”

Republican and Democratic Party leaders from key counties-including Genesee, Ingham, Kent, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland and Washtenaw-are sending the letters to candidates seeking the White House urging presidential candidates to embrace the restoration of the lakes.

“If presidential candidates want to make inroads in vital swing districts in a key battleground state, they would do well to embrace Great Lakes restoration in their platform,” said Stephanie Pazdro,chairman of the Macomb County GOP. “Great Lakes restoration is an issue that cuts across party lines and presents a rare opportunity for candidates to expand their base of support among voters.”

The push by Democratic and Republican Party officials and legislators comes a week after the eight Great Lakes governors, including Gov.Jennifer Granholm, publicly called on the candidates to restore the Great Lakes.

“The region is united,” said Robert Sisson, membership and development director for the Great Lakes Office of Republicans for Environmental Protection. “Great Lakes restoration is not an issue defined by political affiliation. It is defined by the urgent need to act now to protect a resource that is the foundation of our economy and way of life. Presidential candidates who turn their backs on the Great Lakes are failing to protect the needs of millions of people.”

Michigan, the Great Lakes state, has strong support for restoring the Great Lakes in the nation’s capitol. The state’s entire Congressional delegation has signed on to comprehensive federal legislation to restore the lakes based on the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, a plan crafted by over 1,500 citizens.

“Presidential support comes down to this: Committing to fully fund within 5 years the implementation of a comprehensive restoration plan to stop sewage contamination, halt the onslaught of invasive species, and address other serious threats,” said Brian Beauchamp, campaign manager, Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “It is time for presidential candidates to support manageable solutions to protect our lakes, our economy, our drinking water, and our way of life.”

Michigan and the other Great Lakes states contain 141 electoral votes and are considered a crucial component to winning the White House. Many of the local party officials sending letters hail from key swing districts in the state, including Macomb County. With so much public and political support, presidential candidates who fail to support Great Lakes restoration do so at their own political peril.

“The message these letters send is clear: Presidential Candidates looking for support from Michiganders Red or Blue must commit to restoring the health of the Great Lakes,” said Chris Grubb, field director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “By failing to make a commitment to restoring the health of the Great Lakes, the 2008 Presidential candidates are thus far turning their back on Michigan and the other Great Lakes states.”

For more information:

Jordan Lubetkin, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, (734)887-7109,
Chris Grubb, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, (734) 887-7104;
Robert Sisson, Republicans for Environmental Protection, (269)651-1808;
Brian Beauchamp, League of Conservation Voters, (734) 222-9651;

First Ever Presidential Forum on Global Warming Webcast Saturday

This Saturday presidential candidates will gather in Los Angeles for the first presidential forum on energy and global warming. The event will be a critical opportunity to hear from the candidates on their positions and to further elevate our issues in the presidential election. More than a thousand people will fill the theater to watch the event, and due to overwhelming interest, we are giving everyone the chance to tune in! You can watch the live webcast at

The event, which is sponsored by Grist and Living on Earth, will start at 5:15 EST with a welcome address from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Each of the candidates will then get 30 minutes on stage to talk about their vision for solving our energy problems and answer questions on their policies. Here’s the schedule:

5:30 EST—Congressman Dennis Kucinich
6:00 EST—Senator Hillary Clinton
6:30 EST—Senator John Edwards

Destructive Impact of Coastal Development On New England Estuaries

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a released study that shows that over the last 15 years, nutrient contamination in New England and the Gulf of Maine has increased. The main causes are pesticide use, stormwater runoff, and sewage leaks.
Eutrophication, caused by increasing concentrations of the nutrients phosphorous and nitrogen. This process is causing a boon in the algal population in the Gulf of Maine, devouring huge quantities of oxygen and effectively suffocating other ocean life.. Coastal development is increasing, stormwater runoff, agricultural pesticides, and sewage leaks adding to the eutrophication of the coastal waters.

Nate Berg, Planetizen
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dec 29, 2006

Key words:
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
Urban Development / Real Estate

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Celebrate 40 years of Regionalism


Celebrate 40 years or regional collaboration by reaching out to your regional organization and participating in regional activities. Demand Regionalism!

Find out who your regional organization is. Is it a Council of Governments? Is it a Metropolitan Planning Organization? Is it both? And particpate in the regional community. Cities and counties, towns and townships all across the country are succeding because they are working together regionally. Urge your locality to do the same.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Online Fourum for Kansas Planners

If your at all familiar with the Cyburbia Forums, the functionality of this new site will be familiar too.

Kansas Chapter of the American Planning Association Forums

Reconstructing Past Storm Conditions on Lake Superior

One of the most awesome sites I've seen while living in Michigan' Upper Peninsula is a November storm on massive Lake Superior. Even just standing on the shore of this natural wonder watch the huge white caps smashing in to break walls or rocky cliffs give leaves no doubt why the Great Lakes are often called inland seas.

One of my favorite stories of legendary G.L. storms is about the . Story of the November 1975 tragedy detailing one of the worst storms in G.L. recorded history and the mighty merchant/freighter ship, The Edmund Fitzgerald that was thought to be unsinkable. The ship went down with all hands aboard. Do a Google search and read more about the story.

For you meteorology buffs, here is an interesting link that was forwarded to me about reconstruction of storm conditions (using up to date modeling methods) that led to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in eastern Lake Superior in 1975.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Campus Sustainability Actions at Central Michigan University

(Press Release provided by Thomas K. Rohrer, Asst. Prof. & Director Environmental Studies Program, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan)

CMU saves millions by going green - recycling doubles
MEDIA CONTACT: Steve Smith, 989-774-3197
PROGRAM CONTACT: Steve Lawrence, 989-774-7473

Central Michigan University is saving millions of dollars annually by joining the green movement. Energy efficiency, construction, renovation, transportation and recycling are some areas in which the facilities management department at CMU is instituting environmentally friendly changes.

"This year we have a budget of $9.3 million for energy, utility and waste costs," said Steve Lawrence, CMU's associate vice president of facilities management. "Our goal is to reduce those costs by ten percent over the next two years."

The use of woodchips as a renewable fuel source for steam requirements saves the university up to $2 million annually in fuel costs. An additional $1 million or more, over the course of the four-year contract, will be saved as a result of a university contract with Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative to purchase electricity.

Facilities management and residence life also are in the process of modifying nearly 11,000 bathroom fixtures by installing special water conservation aerators and discs in order to reduce water and sewer costs. The new faucet diffusers will reduce water flow from 2.0 gallons per minute to 0.5 g.p.m.

Last year, it was decided that all future new buildings and major renovations would follow the U.S. Green Building Council guidelines. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program provides very specific guidelines that buildings must meet in order to become certified. According to Lawrence, the new education building will be the first on CMU's campus to follow the LEED criteria.

"We are constructing a building that will have less impact on the environment than any other building at CMU," said Lawrence. "We are expecting it to meet LEED silver certification standards, meaning it will use less energy, water and natural resources," he said.

Even cleaning products used on campus are environmentally friendly. Jay Kahn, director of facilities operations at CMU, says that selecting cleaning products that carry environmental certifications is called "green cleaning." Currently, the university is switching to the use of Green Earth floor cleaner, disinfectant and peroxide cleaner. "Each of these products costs less and are as effective or better than the products they replace," said Kahn.

Meanwhile, recycling on-campus has doubled. In June 2007, CMU averaged 38 tons of recycling materials per month, a 19-ton increase from August 2003. CMU students and employees are encouraged to utilize the dozens of recycling containers located around campus. Additional containers and bins are available by contacting facilities management at 989-774-6547 or

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Subprime Mortgages & The African American Community

An article from my friends at the African American Environmentalist Association

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Four Water Articles from The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Four Water Articles from The Chronicle of Philanthropy
From The Chronicle of Philanthropy (18 October 2007 issue): the cover story entitled "Water, Water, Everywhere: A Surge in Giving Helps Those Around the World Without a Safe Drop to Drink" has the following four stories:

A Fresh Look at Water

Global Marathon Aims to Raise Billions for Clean Water

Grants to Aid Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education Overseas: A Sampling

Charity Hopes to Put an End to Villagers' Water Woes

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Detroit Turning Green?

Metro Times "Growing Green" reports that City Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. chairs the new City Council Green Task Force. Task force members are examining the practices of various city departments to see where money can be saved through green practices. It's also looking at what can be done externally to promote green building practices for developers.